Monday, August 03, 2009
James Singleton, in Bass Player mag
My love affair with the rootsy, hard-grooving, highly creative bass playing of James Singleton has been going on practically as long as my love affair with New Orleans music.
Over the years, I've had the opportunity to hear James play with Astral Project, organist Robert Walter, The Trio with Skerik, and the bassist's own groups - frequently at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. I've also had the chance to get to know James, and this year at Jazz Fest we finally connected on a bass lesson.
I spoke with James recently for the purposes of a short piece that appears in the August issue of Bass Player mag. Check it out here. The photo is one I took at this year's Jazz Fest in New Orleans.
Read the full text, below:
James Singleton On Tradition & Texture
What are your main priorities as a composer, and how do you address them?
Texture, dynamics, and orchestration are my big issues right now. I’m dealing with them by hiring multiinstrumentalists to play in my small ensembles.
You’ve cited a debt to early New Orleans bassists like Bill Johnson and Steve Brown. What impact have they had on your playing?
It was their use of different textures that stood out to me. Even on the very earliest recordings, they’re using a bow, and they’re slapping. In a way, I feel I’m part of that lineage—it’s one of the biggest foundations of my style. I took that knowledge and tried to combine it with my perception of Bootsy Collins and Larry Graham to come up with some of my compositions.
How has that background come into play on gigs?
I was once on a gig with Donald Harrison, Willie Tee, and Herlin Riley where they spontaneously went into New Orleans Mardi Gras Indian tunes. Without thinking, I knew exactly what to do.
What happens, rhythmically, in that kind of music?
It’s a way of playing in a rhythm section where there’s a continuous flow of ideas, but they don’t interfere with the groove. It’s similar to Cuban music, where the bass player sometimes plays rhythmic patterns, but doesn’t have to. He can play lyrically, but still with that pulse.
HEAR HIM ON
Astral Project, Blue Streak (astralproject.com,2008); James Singleton String Quartet, Gold Bug Crawl (James Singleton, 2008); Robert Walter, Cure All (Palmetto, 2008); Irma Thomas, Simply Grand (Palmetto, 2008)
Bass early-1900s e-size upright bass, purchased in pieces at an antique store and rebuilt by New Orleans luthier Salvador Giardina
Thomastik Spirocore mediums
Vintage Schertler pickup, 300- watt Walter Woods amp with Epifani UL-210 and Epifani UL-115 cabs
Ibanez Tube Screamer, EBS OctaBass octave, Boss GEB-7 Bass Equalizer, Line 6 DL4 Delay, Boss RV-3 Reverb/Delay